And so the process goes: Your awesome client tells you they have news, you devise a strategy, draft the release, conduct outreach, host briefings (hopefully multiple), and then pray to the journalistic Gods that the reporter publishes an article and leverages that materials you provided to portray your client in a positive light.
From initial interest from a reporter all the way to the release crossing the wire, it’s our responsibility as PR pros to influence the media every step of the way. We spoon feed them original angles, supply industry data, follow up with corporate collateral and serve customer references – the list goes on. If we’re successful, a feature article can have a significant impact on a client’s business. In some cases, you can even directly quantify the value of PR to a specific business metric or result.
For our client, Vertafore, the company came to us with a product update for one of its leading insurance software solutions. A minor (but still important) update that, lucky for us, aligned with some timely industry news.
You see, Google has recently entered into the insurance technology space and has been causing quite a stir in insurance trade publications as well as mainstream technology outlets. While Vertafore’s latest product update doesn’t necessarily directly compete with Google’s insurance solution, Vertafore has been in the market for over 45 years and brings unmatched industry expertise, technology sophistication and a massive customer base. This gave them a unique opportunity to discuss why technology players such as Google, who try to ‘do it all,’ will never be able to offer consumers the same depth of knowledge, expertise, and resources that industry cornerstones like Vertafore provide.
Leveraging this timely angle, we were able to secure an interview with one of the higher circulation insurance publications. The conversation centered on market implications of Google’s entry and how Vertafore stands to compete.
The call was a challenging one. As the PR team, we helped create common ground by offering up suggestions for a couple of counterpoints that the spokesperson ran with during the interview. This even extended the interview by 10-15 minutes. A great sign, but it was still unclear what key messages the reporter was going to focus on in the article. Later that day we worked on a series of follow up responses to provide the reporter with extra information – making it almost certain this one would result in the type of coverage we wanted to garner.
The story touched on the majority of the key messages we wanted included, and those extra points the spokesperson included at the end of the call were highlighted heavily in the second half of the piece. But, the headline was the real attention grabber. The blatant title drove clicks, likes and shares.
Net/net: While it’s sometimes hard to know what’s going to resonate with press, it’s our job to feed media stories that move the needle for our clients, and to help guide our clients correctly through the process. We need to strike the perfect balance between client wants and needs with trends we know will pique reporter interest. By encouraging clients to push the envelop and get a bit outside of their comfort zone to discuss the hot button topic, the result is a mutually beneficial article – the reporter drives clicks, the client drives leads.
For eight years, there was nothing better than spending an hour each week in front of the TV with Don, Peggy and Joan. Yes, Mad Men. The series quickly became one of my favorites after just a few episodes. Whether it was the vintage clothes, 1960’s and 1970’s inspired sets or the great one-liners from Don (that’s why I pay you!), the show effortlessly captivated its mass audience at every turn.
With the show’s final episode airing last month, I was left wondering what new series could possibly fill the vast void left by the end of Mad Men. Enter HAPPYish. Like Mad Men, the series is set in an ad agency, but in the modern day. Thom Payne, the lead character, is a mid-40s creative director whose world is turned upside down when his new 25 year-old boss blows in to town to drive a new “social” direction for the agency. This leads Thom to question his “joy ceiling” and whether pursuing happiness is a fool’s errand.
One of my favorite parts of this dark comedy is how the creators bring brands to life within the context of the show. In six episodes, we’ve been treated to segments on Coke, the Wonderbra, Amazon, GEICO, Keebler, and New York Life, among others. The show’s main characters interact with several famous brand spokescharacters including the GEICO Gecko and the Keebler Elves. The show strips away the polished image of these characters and presents you with a rough and raw version that helps move the storyline forward in a NOT so perfect, real world.
For example, Thom is worried about saving the animated Keebler Elves from their untimely demise due to a change in creative strategy that dictates the use of real world actors. The segment quickly takes an outrageous turn with Ernie Keebler (head elf) perched in the Hollow Tree and wheeling a gun, and Thom taking a romp in the hay with Ma Keebler. Outrageously funny and shocking? Yes. Damaging to the brand? Maybe, maybe not.
In a time when companies are more fiercely protective of their brands than ever before, it’s risky to allow a third party to manipulate the image of a brand or icon. This is one of the key themes the show tackles throughout each episode – when is it time for a brand to flex its creative muscle and consider a change?
In my opinion, it was a risk worth taking and perfectly targeted at the show’s target audience – 30, 40 and 50-somethings who have grown up with these brands and appreciate the humor that comes with age. The brands featured on HAPPYish have taken a risk, pushed the envelope and evolved with their audience to breathe new life into trusted, household names.
I first met Howie when he presented to my communications class during the last quarter of senior year at the University of Washington (go Huskies!). In addition to capturing my immediate attention touting a “No BS” approach to PR, I remember one of the first pieces of PR wisdom Howie shared us, “No one will ever fully understand what you do for a living – not even your family.” Although not entirely aware what he meant at the time, I was certainly intrigued.
Fast-forward five years and Howie’s wisdom still holds true, not only here at BPR, but as an industry as a whole. PR is an industry that is largely misunderstood, often mistaken for marketing or advertising (although most PR pros would appreciate a martini lunch reminiscent of advertising’s Mad Men era). Misinterpreted or not, from my perspective PR is simply the best kept secret.
As Mother’s Day quickly crept on us this year, I asked my BPR family to do a little field testing to see how well our own moms know what we do for 40+ hours a week. I was certain that they too would succumb to the masses and wouldn’t have a clue what their precious kiddos do day in and day out, but I was completely wrong.
In addition to being our super heroes, the best cooks, and our shoulder to cry on when we scraped a knee, one thing will forever hold true – our moms are the shit. Admittedly, judging by mom’s facial expressions each time I try to explain my client’s technology (even in layman’s terms), I highly doubted she knew what I did for a living. And for that, I’m forever sorry and will never doubt her again. In fact, her answer was pretty damn perfect:
“You create a positive image for companies via media.”
A few brilliant answers from other BPR Moms include:
“You monitor your clients public image and help them market themselves and promote their product or service through mass media.” – Taylor N’s Mom
“Honey, I think the job of a PR person is to inject, increase, and or improve the image of a client company in a market it wishes to target. I think you’re doing this by increasing exposure and visual media, television, the written media, magazines and newspaper articles and through social media. And I don’t really understand how you do all social media, but there are lots of ways I guess. The job of a PR person I think is to make a product understandable, approachable, and desirable.” – Melissa’s Mom
“Not sure I really know what you do-write press releases, council CEO’s on communication strategies-what else?” – Karli’s Mom
“Help companies find the best way to get their products, message to the masses.” – Constance’s Mom
“I think you kind of sell the company that you’re promoting. If you’re working for a business you advocate for them.” – Taylor B’s Mom
So PR pros, what have we learned today? Our moms are badass. They are always right, they listen (even as we attempt to explain the complexities of enterprise security, mobile device management and programmatic advertising), and they have a pretty solid idea of what we do in PR.
To be fair, this post wouldn’t be complete without a few honorable mentions as well.
“I have no idea what you do, but you’re on your phone too much.” – Lindsey’s Mom
“Are you Samantha Jones from Sex and the City?” – Lauren’s Mom
“I mean, I think your title says it all ‘public relations.’” – Allyse’s Mom
In honor of Mother’s Day I want to recognize my awesome mom, Barbara, and share with you a small sample of the great content she creates on a weekly basis. Here is a voicemail she left me this week after arriving in New Orleans with my dad, Morgan. They’d planned a trip to NOLA a few years ago, then Katrina hit. They finally took the trip as an early celebration for their 60th wedding anniversary in October.
In case you’re wondering, they got a King bed that was already made, and they bought yogurt and bread for the morning. Oh and my dad’s snoring machine made it through TSA. If you need to reach them they are in room 223, under Barokas.
Oh, hey, soon-to-be college graduate – I see you checking out the BPR website. If you’re hoping to get into the PR industry and looking for an internship, there are certain things you should and should not do to stand out during the interview process. Below are a few do’s and don’ts that make a PR internship candidate either shine in our eyes or, well, not.
Prove that you’ve multitasked — to the extreme
In the PR industry, not a single day is the same. We rearrange and edit our to-do lists multiple times a day. Higher priority items supersede high priority items; tasks that weren’t in our hemisphere at 9:00am dictate our day by 9:30am. There are 30 balls in the air at all times (and sometimes, when it gets super fun, we’ll find ourselves juggling 50 balls, wondering why physicists haven’t yet figured out how to stop time). Staying organized amongst differing degrees of craziness is essential, and we want to know that you can stay composed and on top of your workload without us having to micromanage you. Prove that you’ve mastered this in past experiences.
Don’t just say you’ve juggled your workload in college. These class requirements are outlined in the professor’s syllabus on day one, and fulfilling university credit stipulations while being involved in a sorority, band, Quidditch club, whatever, is not the same as juggling your workload in this industry – trust us.
Provide (well-written) writing samples
In PR, we write. A lot. Whether it’s a press release, pitch, blog post or some variation, being able to communicate well via the written word is tantamount. Show us your grammar acumen and creativity with some writing samples.
Don’t have any typos in your cover letter, resume or emails. A big part of our job is editing and checking for grammar, so this is a deal-breaker. Let me repeat: DEAL-BREAKER. We’ve seen resumes and cover letters in which Barokas is repeatedly misspelled; “your” is used in place of “you’re”; run-on sentences are utilized so frequently, cover letters read like lengthy streams of consciousness, etc., etc. Read and reread for mistakes – find them. Or we will.
Know what PR professionals actually do
Be clear and precise in your reasoning as to why you want to get into PR. Many people don’t know what PR professionals do. This includes some of our spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, parents, pets, etc. We need to make sure you’re knowledgeable about the industry and as passionate about PR as we are.
Don’t just say you want to help clients, that you’re a “people person,” (what does this even mean? You breathe air and don’t hate it?), or you think PR sounds fast-paced and interesting. Be specific. Do research. Google. Share what really excites you about PR.
Be yourself (as clichéd as it sounds)
At BPR, we regard each other as a “work family.” We have a wide range of interests, hobbies, skills and passions, which only makes us better as a whole. Our individual uniqueness allows us to generate original, creative ideas for our clients. So, go ahead – show us your unique, irreplaceable self. We really want to meet the Real You.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your resume. It’s another way to show your personality and showcase your skillset.
If you’re interested in an internship with BPR and ready to ride the fun, crazy wave that is PR, send your cover letter and resume to email@example.com.
A few years ago, I decided to jump off a bridge. I’m still not entirely sure why I did it, but I’ve wanted to jump again every day since.
Okay, okay – I was strapped to a bungee cord. Minor detail. The moral of the story is that, for about 75% of the experience, I thought I was going to die. And I loved it.
It might be an extreme example, but this is how I feel about my job in PR. It’s an adrenaline rush. Every day I question why I do it, and how I’ve survived. But every morning I wake up, drink a few cups of coffee, and fall deeper in love with PR. What keeps me coming back for more? Glad you asked. Here are three things I hate that I love about PR most:
1. No One Knows What the F*ck We Do
I assume that if you’ve landed on the Barokas blog, you’re somewhat familiar with PR. But 99% of the population is not. My favorite example of this lack of awareness comes from the most legitimate of sources: urban dictionary.
Yes, we promote parties. Exactly. Most of my friends think I’m Peggy Olson from Mad Men.
This can be incredibly annoying. The part that I love? There’s always a market demand. Most CEOs, CMOs or their business counterparts need a PR pro or team to help promote their business. Another part that I love: how happy our clients are when they see results. When PR is done right, you’ll see results but hardly even know we’re there. This is counterintuitive and fuels lack of awareness, but it makes us kind of like superheroes. Your sales team will have coverage to fuel their sales pipeline, your HR organization will see resumes pour in, your online channels will spike in traffic – there are countless goals to be accomplished.
2. Shit Hits the Fan Every. Single. Day.
When I wake up in the morning, before I habitually roll over and check my email, there are about 15 priorities I think (emphasis on ‘think’) I have for the day. By the end (and I don’t mean 5pm), those priorities have dramatically shifted. I like to think of this as an “objects in the mirror are never as close (or far away) as they appear’ conundrum. There are two main drivers to the chaos that I’ve grown to love: the nature of PR and the pace of the tech industry.
Whether it’s an embargo being broken, a surprise funding announcement, or a crisis communication effort, PR is an on-the-edge-of-your seat kind of ride – that doesn’t really stop. At Barokas we work with emerging tech companies from early, stealthy startups to high growth, going-to-be-acquired-any-day-now tech darlings – and we take pride in playing a huge part for making them successful. This is not a 9-5 job. The dynamic of this culture is what fuels me. While I’m inherently a ‘planner,’ I’m addicted to the rush of a constantly changing tech and PR world that cannot be 100% planned for.
3. Journalists Hate Us
I absolutely love proving people wrong. Almost every day I read an article about the reason reporters hate PR; they fascinate me. I’m embarrassed for SO many fellow PR colleagues and their incredibly lazy PR tactics; it sickens me to be lumped into this category and I take pride in setting an example of my own behavior. But I’m also humored by the hypocrisy from a minority of journalists themselves: typos, false-information, lack of objectivity, inconsistent policies on embargos. They’re guilty too. Any subset of a given professional should not reflect an entire population – and every day I’m motivated to changing the PR status quo.
PR is rewarding, inspiring and can make a serious impact on a business or society. But PR is not for most people. You have to be thick-skinned, aggressive with a balance of easy-going, and always up for a few challenges. Good luck out there J
Everyone at some point in his or her professional life has asked the question – what is PR? (even PR professionals themselves). I remember when I was trying to make the decision about what career to pursue – PR kept coming up. And I thought, what is PR? And further, why is it so important?
What I soon learned is that PR is the perfect storm.
Do you remember Storm Juno? (or as the media dubbed it, “Snowpocalypse”). To refresh your memory, the East Coast was going to get hit with a major snowstorm on January 27th of this year.
Reports of the impending storm caused people from New York to New Jersey to shut down airports and stand in line at the grocery store for hours on end as the city prepared for what the media promised would be “A Pummeling for the History Books”.
Well, it turns out that Juno was a major bust. What people were referring to as #snowpocalypse soon became #nopocalypse when a wimpy 6 – 8 inches of snow fell (disclaimer: we in Denver have the right to scoff at a frail snowfall).
The snowstorm was such a disappointment, in fact, that local meteorologist, Gary Szatowski, had to Tweet a public apology to the city.
So what does this have to do with PR? Everything. Think about it: Storm Juno would not have existed if not for the media. It was the bold headlines, the concerned reporters, the buzz on social media, and the excited conversations people had with one another that drove so many East Coasters to take action and prepare for a non-existent blizzard.
The media has the power to drive people to take action. It is one of the most effective and universal forms of communication. What we do for our clients is to alert the public via the media or social channels that something is about to happen – or sometimes, is already happening.
PR is a blend of ideas, media coverage and social voices that cause people to take action as a result of the story being told. In other words…it’s the perfect storm.
The 2015 Game Developers Conference kicked off this week and in true industry event fashion, it’s all anyone in the video game industry can talk about. GDC is massive. The event gathers more than 25,000 attendees, has a press list of nearly 550 media contacts, and is the platform for numerous major announcements from some of the biggest names in gaming. For PR pros trying to get their clients noticed at an event, it begs the question – how do you break through the clutter?
I took to Twitter to find out what some of our favorite gaming reporters had to say about PR and came up with a few tips based on their often witty and oh so very honest tweets.
(1) Schedules book fast, so reach out early
OK, all full on GDC appointments and embargoes. If you have a story to pitch, please wait. Unless it is about Obama starting a game company
(12) Use your resources – a quick Twitter search will turn up droves of info on how a reporter prefers to be pitched, so before sending any #GDC2016 emails next year, be sure to do your research first
To all the reporters included in this post – your #GDC2015 tweets have made this year’s event FAR more entertaining. Please know that some of us PR folks are actually listening, and hopefully next year you won’t have to repeat yourselves.
“What metrics do you use to measure ROI?” – PR Clients, Always – Forever
Some people get chills just reading that question. There are so many ways to measure PR’s value, yet at the same time, it’s a value that can also be very ambiguous and hard to define. Sure, most companies understand that PR is another tool to elevate brand awareness but how do you gauge that? You have to define exactly what it is your brand needs to be successful. Do you want page views? Increased sales? More signups? Incoming calls? Ad space equivalence?
The beginning of our relationship with Simple Energy began a bit like this approach. Not the pornography part. The ROI part.
The client was preparing to launch a new platform and began to discuss what success looks like. New to the world of PR but confident in their place within the industry, the client’s goal was straightforward – let the utility world know about their upcoming platform.
Which is exactly what we did. Trade media, local press, top-tier business publications, door-to-door media relations, we spent two months forging relationships with the top energy and tech media in preparation for an every-changing launch date. And it was a great launch, with glowing, in-depth coverage and interviews from Forbes, The Guardian UK, VentureBeat, The Wall Street Journal and a bevy of trade and local press. Our team delivered insight into messaging pull through, social sharing analytics, competitor mentions, target audiences and media impressions. Every possible ROI measurement was tracked and reported back.
However, at the end of the day, these were not the metrics that mattered most. Sure, they were elated at the coverage and the potential eyeballs noticing their brand. But at the end of launch week, they were over the moon about the number of leads they’d received from the coverage. When the dust settled, the number of phone calls coming into their office measured the true value of our PR efforts.
Not every client has the luxury of tying PR directly to sales. Many still have to take a different route to judge the true ROI of their agency’s PR efforts, which is all well and good. But when we’re able to directly tie PR to sales leads and enhancing the bottom line, it makes our job refreshing and most importantly, the client happy. And that’s the best ROI we can ask for.
Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is a thing. I have gone back and forth on it myself, but this year I find myself asking, “What Would Churchill Do?”
A self-proclaimed optimist, Churchill would say that Valentine’s Day is just another difficulty with which to find an opportunity. After taking a step back, I have discovered that Valentine’s Day has taught me three life lessons that I try to apply to PR every day.
1) Set expectations
Whether you have been dating forever or just met last week, you need to set expectations for each other in advance of the holiday. When my husband and I began dating and Valentine’s Day was around the corner, I shot him a quick email that went something like this:
OK, well, he didn’t say exactly that, but you get the idea. I learned that setting expectations head on is a good way to go.
It’s the same principle I use for PR; whether I’m talking to a client about anticipated coverage on an announcement or to a reporter on an embargo date, I aim to clearly communicate actions and expectations. Time and again, setting expectations has prevented disappointment and heartache.
2) One size doesn’t fit all
According to the History Channel, 58 million pounds of chocolate candy is bought and sold during Valentine’s Day week. Chances are, if you give someone a heart-shaped box of chocolates, they will not slap you in the face. But they will not think you are anything to write home about.
At BPR, we think about this every day. As Rachel previously noted, our value lies within our creativity and our knack for telling our clients’ stories in an inspiring way. In this world of communication overload, the same cut and paste pitch is not going to stand out and it will not give you the results that your clients are expecting and deserve. Personalize your gift and personalize your story. Period.
3) Give them a reason to brag
What’s simultaneously one of the best and worst things about Valentine’s Day? OK, there are probably a lot of things that fit this category. What I’m thinking about is the day after Valentine’s Day, when you have to/get to hear about the diamond earrings and puppy that your coworker received from her boyfriend the night before. As annoying as it is when someone brags, you can’t help but be a little jealous and think that your coworker’s boyfriend is pretty cool. I want a Valentine’s Day puppy!
The thing is, we all want to give our clients puppies and make them happy. Happy clients brag about their awesome teams, and that can lead to new business opportunities. That’s why when business comes in through word-of-mouth, we feel extra warm and fuzzy inside because we know that we gave our client the “puppy.”
Valentine’s Day is here to stay. In other words the opportunities in public relations are infinite. You just have to be willing to find them.